Christmas in Russia is celebrated in a unique way, which is different from the rest of the world. Eastern Orthodox Christians form the majority of Christian population in the country. Even today, they follow the old Julian calendar to commemorate different festivals, including Christmas. This is the reason why the festival is celebrated 13 days after Christmas Day (December 25) - the Russian Orthodox Christmas is observed on January 7, every year. People in Russia observe 39 days of fasting, which is broken on January 6, when the first Christmas Star appears in the sky. Read on to know more Christmas celebrations in Russia.
Christmas Celebrations In Russia
Special Church Service
In Russia, special church services are conducted on Christmas Eve - January 6. The procession of devotees carries candles, torches and homemade lanterns and revolves round the church for one time. The procession then returns to the church to sing carols and chant hymns, in the praise of Lord Jesus Christ. After the ritual is over, people present in the church would disperse and return to their homes, to relish on the traditional Christmas Eve dinner, which typically consists of twelve apostles - fish, beet soup or Borsch, cabbage stuffed with millet, cooked dried fruit and much more. On Christmas Day, people would return to the church, to attend the services and return home to feast on lip smacking delicacies including a variety of different meat, goose being the favorite.
On Christmas Eve, people in Russia would make a beautiful manger, depicting the Nativity Scene. According to the traditions, people wearing masks, portraying as manger animals, would visit every home in the country and sing songs in the praise of Baby Jesus Christ. The songs were known as 'Kolyadki'. Carols are also sung in the praise of Baby Jesus. They also sing songs to invoke their ancient Solar Goddess 'kolyada'. In return, the masqueraded people would accept food and coins from every household.
Babushka - The Gift Giver
In Russia, the concept of Santa Claus is a bit different from other countries of the world. In the country, the legendary gift-giver is known as 'Babushka'. According to the legends, Babushka is a grandmother, who refused to accompany the Three Wise Men to visit Baby Jesus Christ. When Babushka felt guilty of her deed, she took a basket full of gifts and set her trail to visit Baby Jesus Christ. However, due to her refusal to accompany the Three Wise Men, she failed to find Jesus Christ anywhere. As a result, she decided to leave a present at the doorsteps of every house in Russia, during the festive season of Christmas, every year.
St. Nicholas is very popular in Russia. As per the legends connected to Christmas celebrations in Russia, in 11th century AD, Prince Vladimir traveled to Constantinople to be baptized. There, he was amazed by the miracles done by St. Nicholas of Myra. He brought back with him, the stories associated with the miracles done by St. Nicholas. Since then, December 6 was dedicated to the Saint and was named as St. Nicholas Day. A special feast is prepared on the day. The tradition of celebrating the day was followed for many centuries until the Communist revolution. The tradition returned after the fall of Communism in Russia.